Monday, March 28, 2011

Spiral Knights - Preview

Three Rings Design, the developers behind the popular Puzzle Pirates game, is joining forces with SEGA to bring out a brand new online adventure that mixes old school dungeon crawling with today's MMO style gaming. Their newest title is called Spiral Knights and it looks to be a wicked mix between such classics as The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles and with just a splish-splash of Bomberman. The game has been in an ongoing preview event for the past couple of months and will be going live pretty soon, so I decided to form this little preview for everyone that wasn't fortune enough to snag up an invite.

Starting out, there's a moderately small but reasonable amount of customization available for you knight. With the multiple color schemes to choose from, you better make sure that you're really comfortable with them, because your starting color scheme will determine the color scheme used for most of your armor sets in the future.

After customizing my knight, the game opens up telling me that I've crashed landed on a mysterious planet called Clockworks along with other knights and it's up to us to explore the planet for whatever reason... From the moment you start playing, you might feel a sense of Deja Vu, since the game world is sporting some old school level design, most of which resembles something out of Nintendo's 2D Legend of Zelda titles.

Strollin' along from the crash site, you'll be passing by a rescue camp, where you can learn more about the game through tutorial dungeons. The tutorial dungeons here are completely optional and can be played with others knights that are starting out just as you.

After the training camp, you'll find yourself in Haven, a small refugee town filled with equipment shops, other fellow knights and little birds that fly around like helicopters.

Yeah! Copta peeps!
When I reached Haven, I wandered around for a bit, just taking in the sights and sounds, petting a few birdies and what not. I stumbled around to the back alleys of Haven and found the arcade where all the others knights hang out.

This is also where all the fun begins: There are several difference dungeon gates for knights to choose from and explore. Each gate is filled with several different floors and areas that switch up periodically, so your dungeon expeditions may not be the same run twice.

Decisions, decisions... I really didn't know what gate I wanted check out, so I picked one at random and joined up with a random party. Inside, I was already forced in the middle of a heated battle against a bunch of pink blob monsters and bushy foxes. It took us awhile to take them all down, but it was no sweat.

Earlier, I mentioned that Spiral Knights also had a bit of FF: Crystal Chronicles in it. Well that was because of the light puzzle elements and mineral collecting available in each run. Solving puzzles in Spiral Knights mostly revolve around flipping trigger switches and laying down stones, but I'm pretty sure that more challenging puzzles will be faced in the deeper dungeons.

The mineral collecting is also what makes Spiral Knights unique. Knights are tasked with collecting different minerals to bring back to the surface. With them, knights can dump them into one of the inactive dungeon gates until they're ready to open. These special gates will generate a dungeon based on the amount of each mineral put in, and the best part of mineral dumping is when you get paid in crowns (in-game currency) every time a player users these gates when they're active, so knights are encouraged to collect minerals and deposit them often.

My team and I came across many different monsters on the way down, but some of my favorite ones were definitely the devilites. These monsters like to run around and throw office supplies at knights, and there's also a big devilite called a Pit Boss that walks around just surveying the small devilities to make sure they're not slacking off, which is not only funny but shows off some nice AI interaction.

After trudging through waves of goo, scales and fur, I managed to reach an eerie sub-town called "Moorcroft Manor". The place had a nice haunted vibe going for it, with ghosts and skeletons and... you know... scary stuff.

After my team got situated a bit, the next dungeon we entered was an arena dungeon. These dungeons are considered to be the most challenging, but also the most rewarding dungeons in Spiral Knights. Stepping into the arena with you and your team will pit you against three or more waves of enemies in three trapped rooms, generally sporting different themes. Taking on the arena for me and my team was no easy task, but we managed to survive the waves and the rewards were plenty.

From here, I wanted to go deeper into Clockworks and see what was lurking, but there was one small problem: I ran out of energy! Yes, Spiral Knights uses a system that is quite similar to fatigue systems in other action MMOs like Dungeon Fighter Online, but with a catch: Energy is used for many different things in Spiral Knights, from activating elevators to crafting equipment. While you get a small amount of free energy that recharges over time (called mist energy), you can either shell out a couple of bucks or exchange a hefty amount of your crowns for some crystal energy. While I'm not too fond of exchange rates for trading crowns to crystals, it is good to know that players are free to enjoy Spiral Knights by either spending time or money.

Heading back to the surface, it didn't seem like there was much left to do except wait for my mist energy to recharge, but then I noticed the coliseum terminal in the Arcade.

The coliseum is Spiral Knights' extra game mode that lets you battle against other players at no cost to your energy. There are several different tiers you can participate in based on your equipment, but if you're daring enough, you can participate in the ultimate brawl tier which has no equipment restrictions, so anything goes!

Overall, Spiral Knights is shaping up to be one hell of a fun adventure title, and the fact that Spiral Knights is a browser title means that it can be played on almost any PC.

Spiral Knights is set to launch on April 4th, 2011. Check out our Spiral Knights profile page for more info and be on the lookout for a full review in the coming weeks.

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